Come up with ideas for your novel that will adhere to other ideas and then be sure and save them, even the ones you are not using now. Ideas are everywhere!
If there’s anything people want to know when they talk to me at book signings or on television, it’s this: “Where do you get your ideas?”
Not from a “novelist’s muse,” that’s for sure.
Most of my ideas for my Veronica Slate mystery novels came from true crime nonfiction books, television, movies, and from real life. I read true crime books to try to understand what causes people to kill two husbands in their sleep, ten years apart, or to murder a wife and burn down the house so she can't get the kids.
Many of my plot ideas come from the Dateline NBC and 48 Hours television programs. I just take the real events and twist them around for my own use. When you read something on Google News or see something on MSNBC or Fox News, think “What if?” You are on the road to developing a plot. Ideas are everywhere, you simply have to pay attention.
For example, Option To Die, my third published mystery novel, opens with two Bradenton Beach, Florida police ofﬁcers chasing a speeding gray Audi on a beach road. When the car ﬁnally comes to a stop, they open the door to discover a woman behind the wheel who is naked and dead. They learn she is a local attorney.
In the real event, which was in the Sarasota newspaper, the woman was a prosecutor, the car belonged to the wife of the man who was in the car with her, she was naked only from the waist down and — of course — she was not dead. (After the news hit the papers, however, she probably wished she were dead.)
Come up with an adhesive idea.
To create an idea for your novel, find an adhesive idea, an idea to which other ideas will adhere. Take the ideas and connect them to something else. Create an idea that leads to more questions.
The adhesive idea, which helped me create Kill Cue, my ﬁrst novel, was “What would happen if a disk jockey was killed while he was on the air, but nobody knew it because the station was automated.”
At the time, I was working nights at an automated FM radio station on an old dirt road in Sarasota, Florida. The next idea to stick to my adhesive idea was “Why would someone kill a disk jockey while he was on the air?” That directed me to “Why would Veronica (my protagonist) investigate?” In addition, it led to “What secret was the disk jockey trying to hide?”
For Extreme Close-Up, my second novel, the adhesive idea was “Could someone be cleared of a murder when he did pull the trigger and his gun did shoot the victim even though he had not meant to kill her?”
I had seen the fascinating old movie, F/X, and I was nudged by a method used by the special effects expert to outsmart a bad guy. I used the same method to frame Veronica’s boyfriend. The plot was built around a single adhesive idea.
For my third book, Option To Die, I had been reading about real estate agents being raped when they showed homes to sketchy strangers. My adhesive idea was, “What if someone was killing real estate agents, but their motive was revenge for a real estate deal gone wrong?”
Since Sarasota, Florida, my setting for the Veronica Slate mystery novels, happens to be the winter home of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum, and Bailey circus, and I had visited the now defunct theme park, Circus World, near Orlando, I came up with the idea of building a theme park in Sarasota called CircusLand. I created rides, a computer control room, and even designed the clown make-up for the employees.
Funny thing. After the book came out, the Tampa Bay Tourism Association got about a dozen calls inquiring about buying tickets to my fictional theme park. Most of them were from Colorado and Idaho.
Much of what you write in the coming years will be based on what has happened to you. Notice I said, “Based on” not exactly what happened. Strive to remember your emotional reaction to events that have happened to you.
Of course, having ideas for books means nothing if you don’t keep track of the ideas. I use the voice recorder app on my smartphone and transfer the files to my computer later on. You can carry a notebook with you if you’d rather. Everything's important. Remember all you can.
Start and maintain a plot saver file, containing anything that might become a plot idea, even though it may not be one yet. What makes the plot saver file useful is going through it again.
Starting a new book, I go through my plotsaver file and combine things I might not have considered combining before. Ideas are all around you, but you have to pay attention. Talk with new people. Be curious and patient. Let people ramble on about their personal problems. (Just don’t try to solve them.)
By being open to other people around you, you can gain experiences, glimpses of private lives. You’re learning what makes people tick. How they behave. As a writer, you need to know the inner workings of people because people are the heart of your writing.
Develop a personal kind of radar by raiding the news, the bulletin board at the laundry, your Facebook or Twitter writer’s groups, looking for ideas. Take in and absorb everything and, if you're smart, you’ll tuck it away so you can ﬁnd it when you need to. Train yourself to notice the little things you see and hear and save them, so you can ﬁnd them and use them later. You never know when a little scrap of fact becomes something important.
My next novel, Hear After, came from an idea casually mentioned in a tour of the Thomas Edison Museum, twenty-five years ago. At the time, I wasn’t good enough to do it justice.
Now, I am ready to write it.
----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.) http://smarturl.it/novsec